We cannot improve Out-Of-School Time (OST) Systems alone—it is important to reach out and listen to diverse community residents to effectively improve these systems. Connecting with young people, especially disconnected youth, as well as parents, teachers, school leaders, and other key people to engage can provide valuable insight into Out-of-School Time efforts.
This notion of "turning outward" is a fundamental element of the United Way business model. By listening and connecting your OST efforts to the needs of the community, you will be better equipped to focus your work and strengthen strategies to improve Out-of-School Time. Additionally, the people to whom you reach out—and listen to—can later become part of the community-wide coalition you will need to bring your OST strategies to life. United Ways can turn outward by listening to youth, parents, teachers, school leaders, faith-based organizations, the business community, elected officials and other community leaders to effectively align out-of-school time efforts with the needs of young people.
The aspirations of the community, including its vision of success for children and youth, should be a key factor that drives the work of your United Way. Therefore, by capitalizing on your accrued resources, community respect, and organizational drive, your United Way can help sustain a constantly improving Out-of-School Time system.
Although there is a lot of great work that can be done in the initial dialogues with the community, much of the long-term improvements are achieved through sustained relationship-building and authentic and ongoing engagement. Continually engaging community members will provide your United Way with increased credibility and upgraded visibility for your work in education, as well as allow you to attract new supporters in the effort to improve educational outcomes for children and youth.
To most effectively engage the community, your United Way should stay up-to-date on the current movements in the Out-of-School Time field. Click here to go to our Featured Topics page, which gives you direct access to key resources in the areas of STEAM, Literacy, Mentoring, Summer Learning and more! Or, head to the Learning Modules to explore Engagement in more detail!